I’m calling it: our society’s obsession with setting goals has gone too far.
I’m a goal-setter. A stubborn three-year-planner. A hardened list-maker.
Yep, in true Type A personality style, I’m into day-by-day planners, I’ve mastered annotated flow charts, and I’m practically an expert in vision boards.
But I’ve recently had a bit of an epiphany and it boiled down to this one simple realisation: as a society, our obsession with setting goals has gone too far.
Here’s how this revelation came to me…
During a long layover at an international airport, stuck in a bookstore with some seriously limited reading options (what is it with airports and self-help books?), I ended up picking up a title called something like How To Reach Your Goals.
The book’s author — one of those American motivational speaker-types with a mega-watt grin — seemed obsessed with writing down his life goals on tiny cards, then reading these goals back to himself.
This guy would tape said goals on his fridge, above his bed, and on the back of the toilet door, as a constant reminder of where he envisioned him future self. It required at least an active committment of an hour per day, he said, but this constant reading and rereading and re-rereading of goal, he swore, could be credited with his considerable success (ie. selling a self-help book that appeared in airport lounges around the world.)
Well, after reading this book for seven hours straight en route to Sydney from New York (it was that or watching Bride Wars for the third time, alright?), I decided to try his recipe for goal-setting. So right there, on the plane, I amped up my goal-hitting regimen by determining my own set of 30 ‘bucket list items’ in the very specific, descriptive terms suggested by the book.
I even followed its suggestion of breaking down each one of those goals into an expected timeline, which in turn required a whole lot of “mini goals” that required attention every day (want to visit Italy? Better learn Italian and pick up more work, so you can start saving a hundred bucks a week towards that airfare. You get the idea.)
Before long, I had written down a bunch of measurable things I would begin to ‘achieve’ in my life: these included What my Ideal Relationship Would Look Like, The Words my Job Title Should Include, The Date by Which I Should Have my First Child, and The Cities I Had to Visit (By Which Exact Deadline).
I even listed The Specific Type of House I Wanted to Live In — and the Type of Couch that Would Form the Centrepiece of its Living Room. (Just so you know, I’ve never been the sort of person to give a single f**k about the brand or colour of my couch but, the author insisted, my goals must be specific and mention some material goals. So, a tan leather L-shaped couch from West Elm went on that list.)
I popped these little goals onto small white cards in my wallet as suggested and, whenever I opened up that zipper to grab a coffee, there they were, admonishing me: Renovate that house. Get this promotion. Book another adventure holiday. Learn this language. Start taking spin class again instead of hanging out on the elliptical machine all the time at the gym. Buy that goddamn hipster couch.